“A choice location. The snow-capped Rockies, visible from campus, provide inspiration and the best possible location for a university: Colorado State University – a place for you.” Here is the picture of Colorado State University according to our Web site.
Eighty-nine percent of us are white. Fifty-two percent of us are women. Ninety-five percent of us are under 30. Around 65 percent of us finish our undergraduate degrees. What we all have in common is we are able to go to college. This was one of the choices afforded to us, whether it was through scholarships, loans or our parents helping us through. We are predominantly white and come from families of the middle and middle-upper class.
The people that have joined the military are a very different picture. Twenty-one percent of the military is African American, while only 12 percent of the United States’ population is African American. Of women in the military, 35 percent of them are African American. In the last decade, the number of Latinos that have joined the military grew by 30 percent.
The military make-up does not represent society as far as class also. Previous studies show that the middle and upper-middle classes join the military at a much lower rate. They also become officers at much higher rates. Only one U.S. Senator has a son serving in the military.
It has been suggested by some in Congress that the United States consider a draft. But in an environment where there is a division between who goes to college and who chooses to join the military, a draft is hard to conceive. Would it be like the Vietnam War, where so many people of different races died? Would it force every man to serve for a certain amount of years, like many other countries? How would women be part of it, since they are becoming more and more present in the military itself? In reality, the likelihood of the government enforcing a draft is slim. The political repercussions are too high.
The main issue I wrestle with when I think about war and the military is the disparity between class and race within the institution. A recent study found that Latinos are much more likely to serve in combat positions or labor within the military. Whites are more likely to be airplane pilots and officers. African Americans are more likely to be in administrative positions. Not much different than Vietnam.
We have started seeing deaths of our own soldiers. The pictures pierce us. They force us to question who is dying, where they are from, and how their roles in our society will affect the rest of us.
For some of us, those of us that chose to join the military and pursue college, the effect of war is strong. For others of us that have middle-class parents who never went to Vietnam, who never had to think about options such as the military, who will go to work in a safe job, the effect may not penetrate our thoughts.
As more young men and women die from suicide bombs and war, I want to know why they died and who they were. Joining the military may help many out of the poverty and danger of life on the streets. But it may also be a dangerous and unfair option. All of here is this picture perfect place have to remember that for some people the “choice picture” is not an option. It is the picture that we are now seeing on TV that was their option.
A note: We all lost a mentor and friend in Dr. David Allen. I want to take a minute as a political science graduate and a member of the graduate program to remember him. He challenged me and made me a stronger person. He expected the most out of all of his students, and because of this he got it. He will be missed and forever remembered by many students and faculty.